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Fishing with Worms

Joel La Follette - Thursday, November 09, 2017

By Josh Linn

Photos by Corey Koff, Nick Wheeler and Josh Linn



While Joel has been on a three day trip to the John Day with Marty and Brian, Nick and I have been out causing trouble and chasing steelhead. As Nick and I are reporting back on our fishing adventures for the week, I ponder what lessons might have been learned or any insights gained. I ask him if he has gleaned any little nuggets or had some tidbit for me. He tells me sadly, “The early bird doesn’t always get the worm.” 




We were on separate outings, but on Sunday morning I saw Nick, along with Rob and Erin Perkin at the boat launch. We had a quick talk and I told Nick I had heard there were some people camping where he wanted to fish. Apparently, he didn’t believe me because he hiked straight out to the spot. It's always better to see for yourself, and he was sorely surprised when he saw that there actually was a boat camped in there. He was sure that because there weren’t any cars in the parking lot that he was going to have his pick of spots. In a daze Nick came up with a new plan. They moved on to his second choice of runs and again, there were anglers in that piece of water. It was a little confusing considering there wasn’t a single car in the parking lot. By the end of the day they had found some good water and Nick and his companions did end up landing a couple of fish. Really his nugget was; "Be flexible and always have a backup plan or expect the unexpected.... 



I came back with a different lesson in mind. I floated on both of my days off. It was cold and and awesome! I love the fall I like the crisp cold days. The beauty of the hills with their fall colors reds, greens, and yellows is breath taking. The weather had changed as promised. There was snow a little further to the NE and it was raining extremely hard to the West. We were in a little pocket that was cold and cloudy between the two fronts. Daylight savings had moved our start time up an hour earlier, to a 4:30 a.m. wake up call. We were on the water shortly after sunrise, and ready to fish. Our last couple of outings had been really good and we had high expectations. Immediately upon stepping into the water we could feel that the water temperatures had dropped. We could feel the chilly water through our waders. I was dressed how I would typically dress for winter steelheading but you tend to forget that the fall has its own unique cold. Its dry and cold with icy biting winds. In the winter it’s typically rainy so it’s almost always in the 40’s. I’m longing for that weather and it’s coming soon enough.


We fished a ton of prime water on our float. Runs that we have caught fish in in the past, but this time it seemed like no one was home. Had the fish pushed through? Was it so cold that they were deeper in the tanky water? Or were they just glued to the bottom unwilling to eat? Without being able to communicate with the fish it’s hard to know exactly what was going on. What I do know was that we weren’t moving any fish. 

We weren’t losing hope and we were still fishing hard. We got to our last run of the day. It was getting late and had about 45 minutes to an hour left of fishing. This was quite possibly the best run on the river, this thing is a Mecca for steelhead. Eric steps in first and starts more towards the middle of the run. After a few casts I see Eric has hung up on the bottom. I toss out a sarcastic, yet comical remark, and he gets his fly free and is back to fishing. About two casts later I glance down just in time to see his rod start to bounce from the pull of a steelhead and then go limp. Sometimes you get a strong pull and it doesn’t connect. He makes a few more casts from the same station before moving and about 5 steps down to where he gets another good grab. Again I see the rod buck from the hard grab and the fish pulls a little line and then slack. Eric is dumbfounded. He strips in his fly and finds that his hook had broken off when he was hung on the bottom. He ties on a new fly and gets back to fishing. He makes it all the way to the end of the pool and literally on his last cast I look down to see where he’s at and I hear him saying, "Eat it, eat it, eat it," and after the third eat it he drives the hook home. The fish comes flying out of the water. Redemption! That was a sight to see. 




Typically when I’m fishing or guiding I am always resolute in checking my leader for wind knots if I make a bad cast or to check my hook if I hang up on the bottom. Eric had made a quick visual survey to see that he still had the fly but didn’t check the hook and that’s what I probably would have done too. So my lesson or though is don’t get complacent with your tackle. Inspect. Inspect. Inspect. If you have something happen, a bad cast, or tick the bottom, or something else check your gear to make sure it’s all in perfect working order.

Nick and I have been finding fish lately, and all of them have come on the same basic tackle setup. We have both been using lighter rods, I don’t really think it matters too much as long as you can cast it and fight a fish quickly with it. Seemingly the key to our success has been a 2.5’ Floating x7.5’ sinking t-11 MOW tip and a fly that is about 1-1.5” long. We have been fishing mostly Klamath intruders. This sink tip seems to get this smaller lighter fly down to the right depth and still swing into the soft water where fish seem to be holding.



As far as other fish reports go I haven’t heard back from a lot of people, so I don’t have a lot to report, but here is what I’ve heard.

I got a report via Satellite from Joel on the upper John Day. It’s been pretty cold, but his group has gotten into a few fish. Fish were taken on Purple Muddlers, Silveynators and Klamath Intruders.

Rob and the Water Time Outfitters gang are on their last camp trip of the season and they are still hitting good numbers of fish between Warm Springs and Maupin.

I talked with Jake from G Loomis. They were on the Deschutes and ran up from the mouth in a jet boat and they did quite well.

Seems like the Deschutes really got a late start but is fishing good right now. The secret is to cover as much water as possible.

A couple of different friends of ours were out on the Klickitat and they both said it was extremely cold and sadly no fish.

If you are planning on heading east prepare for cold weather and the possibility of snow.


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